Riley Mahlman (photo by Korey McDermott, SportsEngine)
Riley Mahlman was leaning already, but when the Lakeville South junior offensive lineman entered Camp Randall Stadium last Saturday as a guest of the Wisconsin Badgers, he no longer had any doubt.
He wanted to be a Badger.
Mahlman, a 6-8½, 275-pound offensive tackle, is regarded as the top football recruit in Minnesota’s junior class. He has the size college coaches clamor for, a frame that can easily handle the added weight needed for that position, and the athleticism and nimble feet borne of a lengthy basketball career.
He announced his commitment to Wisconsin on Sunday on his Twitter feed, one day after getting an up-close-and-personal view of the Badgers’ 35-14 thrashing of Michigan, stating “Over the last couple of days, something became clear. I would love to be a Badger.”
“As I was driving up there, I was thinking heavily on it,” Mahlman said Thursday. “Even before the game, I kind of had my mind set. The game didn’t hurt at all. That solidified it.”
And when the nearly 80,000 fans in the stadium broke into Wisconsin’s traditional “Jump Around” celebration at the start of the fourth quarter, Mahlman was right there with them.
“I was doing it, too.” he said, breaking into a big grin. “It’s just awesome. The whole stadium is jumping around. The person next to you, behind you, in front of you. It’s kind of hard not to.”
Wisconsin’s reputation as Offensive Lineman U played a large part in Mahlman’s decision. He hopes to one day follow in the footsteps of such notable Badger linemen as Aaron Gibson, Joe Thomas, Kevin Zeitler, Travis Frederick and Ryan Ramczyk. All were selected in the first round of the NFL draft.
Said Mahlman: “I’m always thinking about the future. My goal is the NFL. That’s a dream of mine and I want to do whatever will help take me there.”
Seven other Power 5 programs, including Minnesota, had also offered Mahlman. That total would likely have increased significantly had he waited and did the college camp circuit in the offseason.
But, he said, when you know, you know.
“There’s nothing bad about Minnesota or anything,” he said. “It’s just that Wisconsin is a special place. There was no reason to wait. It’s exactly what I wanted.”